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United Way of Lancaster County


City, SoWe eye former Strawberry Hill Restaurant for redevelopment

The former Strawberry Hill Restaurant, 128 W. Strawberry St. (Source: Google Street View)

Lancaster officials and neighborhood advocates are looking forward to hearing ideas for redeveloping a key Cabbage Hill property following its acquisition this spring through the city’s Land Bank.

The city and the Land Bank are in the process of drafting a request for proposals, or RFP, for the former Strawberry Hill Restaurant, 128 W. Strawberry St., along with two related properties, 122 W. Strawberry St. and 401 W. Vine St. It should be ready for release later this summer, Director of Community Planning and Economic Development Chris Delfs said.

The Land Bank paid $400,000 to acquire the properties from the restaurant’s founder and owner, Dennis Kerek. The transaction was closed on April 13, with Kerek’s children representing him in the transaction.

The RFP “may include performance criteria related to factors such as housing affordability, community engagement and other community benefits” such as green design or economic impact, Delfs said. The Land Bank board will have final say on its scope and wording.

The Land Bank anticipates holding the properties only until an appropriate developer is identified and approved, Delfs said.

The 128 W. Strawberry St. building stands at a key intersection in the SoWe neighborhood, overlooking the Cabbage Hill Veterans Memorial at the corner of West Strawberry and West Vine streets.

For more than a quarter century, it was the home of the Strawberry Hill Restaurant. Kerek opened it in 1986 and ran it until 2012 when, suffering from health problems, he announced what was planned to be a temporary closure. The building has gone unused since then.

“This is an iconic building at the gateway of the neighborhood,” said Amos Stoltzfus, director of SoWe, a neighborhood revitalization group operating under the umbrella of the nonprofit Tenfold.

SoWe plans to work closely with the city and Land Bank to vet proposals and serve as a conduit for neighborhood input, Stoltzfus said. The three properties could be redeveloped to add affordable housing, he said, “and potentially a commercial use” in the former restaurant.

The three properties together total about 8,660 square feet, according to county records. Parking will need to be addressed, Stoltzfus noted: On-street spaces are already in high demand, and the properties do not have any off-street spaces.